Leadership Lessons 2020
On December 22, the Women’s Leadership Forum community held its traditional Mentor League meeting. On the eve of the New Year, experts shared the leadership lessons that they learned in 2020. They discussed conclusions that they drew for life and business. The meeting took place in the online format. Mentors acted as not only strong executives but also experienced mentors.
co-founder of the Women's Leadership Forum, founder of Style of Life Academy international coaching centre
co-founder of the Women's Leadership Forum, leader of the Corporate Club of Clubs on supporting women’s communities
The Women’s Leadership Forum community regularly hosts events in different formats for its members. Those include mentor lounges, large annual forums, and informal meetings dedicated to the discussion of topical issues. On New Year’s Eve, women leaders from various spheres met to sum up the results of their work, share their experience, and exchange their insights from the past year. Such a meeting turned out to be especially necessary and important for the community’s participants.
The year 2020 has become the most unpredictable and eventful year for everyone. Managers of for-profit and non-profit organisations faced serious challenges. Many companies had to reorganise not only their work but also the lives of their team members to meet the new ‘pandemic’ realities.
The ability to turn challenges into opportunities is one of the key leadership abilities, which turned out to be especially relevant in 2020.
Svetlana Landa welcomed the participants and viewers of the online broadcast of the Mentor League meeting. She emphasized the points of growth discovered by leaders during the pandemic as one of the main topics.
“I believe that, despite all the challenges, this year brought many bright and good moments to many people. Anyway, it is important to treat everything that happens in our lives with gratitude. Events that do not bring us joy give us experience”, says Svetlana Landa.
Anna Belova, international-level expert in change management of companies, shared her vision of the situation, new challenges, and opportunities. According to her, the world managed to switch to new forms of social partnership and collaboration during the pandemic and self-isolation period. Many teams began to actively reconsider their plans on resource allocation. They refined their goals and objectives, adapted them to the new reality, and changed their business models.
People felt a different flow of time. Many intermediate functions at work disappeared and the life-work time balance changed. People realised the value of human life.
“The pandemic became the impetus that made people reassess their priorities. They came to an understanding that time should only be spent on things that are actually valuable for society. The time has come when there is no need to prove anything to anyone and you can just give something you can share”, emphasizes Anna Belova.
Marina Volynkina, Rector of the Institute for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO) and the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK), shared the idea of the value of the creative activity. According to her, the year 2020 clearly showed how important it is to learn to transform fear into positive energy. Ms. Volynkina believes that the joy of creativity is a real cure for all diseases and a solution to all challenges.
The expert talked about initiatives carried out by students and lecturers at her educational institution in 2020. Those included large-scale projects in the fields of culture, art, ecology, and international collaboration.
“The task of a good leader is to create an inspiring atmosphere in the team”, believes Marina Volynkina.
For Anna Vasilenko, former Communication Managing Director at the Moscow Exchange, helping her close people was the recipe for apathy and stress. The expert admitted that the year 2020 had fully transformed her life. After leaving the job where she had worked for 7 years, Ms. Vasilenko wondered where to invest her energy after that.
A simple rule has become the new key principle for her. Everything a person gives to the world always returns to him or her hundredfold. The expert has decided to focus not on global social and charitable projects but on helping people around her.
“Sometimes it is enough to show sincere love to people and support them in difficult moments. The feeling that you were helpful gives you inner warmth and an incredible emotional charge”.
Margarita Fedoseeva, author of MAD DAISY brand, philanthropist, and public figure, continued the topic of charity. While fulfilling a series of charity projects to support children suffering from various diseases, Margarita Fedoseeva faced many difficulties during the pandemic.
In April, most of the medications she needed were completely unavailable because of the closure of borders. However, Margarita Fedoseeva’s team members, friends, colleagues, and like-minders did that was seemingly impossible. They focused all their energies on solving the tasks set. Even previously unknown people responded and assisted them.
“The year 2020 showed that cooperation and mutual assistance stretch beyond borders. We live in a rapidly changing world. We can overcome all the challenges only by joining a team game and surrounding ourselves with caring and kind people”, comments Margarita Fedoseeva.
Svetlana Shmakova, president of the Sapsan group of companies, president of the Ivanovo Delo charity foundation, and top manager with many years of experience, told about the conclusions she had come to in 2020. In the midst of the pandemic, she managed to successfully launch a major project on gluten-free production called FOODCODE. It was recognized as the best at the APEC BEST AWARD international competition of women’s entrepreneurial projects.
According to Svetlana Shmakova, the notion of ‘courage’ acquired a new meaning in terms of business development during the pandemic. It is now associated with the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for other people despite all the instability and uncertainty of the situation.
“The year 2020 was a test of the strength of not only the business and the team but also the values of the person, his or her relationship with his family and loved ones”, says Svetlana Shmakova.
Irina Menshikova, Managing Director of Amway in Russia and Kazakhstan, shared her experience of business development and team support during the pandemic. In spring 2020, the company had to close all of its stores, which generated 50% of its sales. In one day, it transferred a huge number of employees to remote working mode. At that time, Irina Menshikova was the Managing Director for only six months. Such a blow to the business was unexpected for her.
“I decided to ask myself several questions. What do I choose, fear or love? Opportunities or limitations? What should I focus on? Worrying about myself or helping people? Probably, the right answers to these questions determined the direction for my team”, says Irina Menshikova.
The chosen path focused on love and mutual help made in possible to ensure business growth by 30% in Russia and by more than 100% in Kazakhstan within a year. The company also achieved its highest employee involvement level: up to 98%.
Olga Sorokina, Managing Partner of the O2 Consulting group of companies, formulated for herself the principles associated with the formation of an effective team during the pandemic. For her, the challenges of 2020 coincided with the rapid growth of business and the launch of two new start-ups. To stay afloat and move forward in such difficult conditions, there were two necessary elements: well-coordinated work and great involvement of the team. Olga Sorokina came to the difficult decision to keep only those people who showed maximum initiative and loyalty, had a positive attitude, and shared the values of the company in the team.
Young people made up the majority of the employees. Although they had no serious experience, their main advantages were motivation, lack of apathy, and a sincere desire to change the world.
“Today’s environment makes us work hard to move forward. That is why we must surround ourselves with people who will not spend our and their energy thoughtlessly. We need people to charge one another with energy”, believes Olga Sorokina.
Alina Barinova, co-founder of the WLForum community, told about the year 2020 in the Corporate Club of Clubs led by her. Interestingly, the main topic of discussion in 2020 was called Office of the Future. Representatives of different companies not only shared their experience of moving to a remote or hybrid mode of working but also speculated on possible relevant formats of social and commercial interaction of the future few years.
Speaking about personal lessons learned in 2020, Alina Barinova mentioned two key points. In her opinion, it is especially important to maintain the level of your own ‘psycho-hygiene’ in the context of global transformations and instability. It must be based on the preservation of inner awareness and emotional balance. It is also important to choose carefully the people who are around us and who influence us.
The WLForum community named the year 2020 to be the ‘Year of Caring’. Indeed, 2020 was filled with support and mutual assistance of the community’s participants.
The support didn’t stop even during the live coverage of the Mentor League meeting. The event received an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. Throughout the two hours of broadcasting, the chat room was filled with words of support and gratitude from non-indifferent participants. They congratulated the speakers on the success they achieved in 2020 and thanked them for their helpful advice and inspiration.
At the end of the meeting, organisers of the Mentors League wished everyone good health and the opportunity to see their colleagues more often in 2021. After all, support and mutual enrichment are a huge and very powerful resource for changing the world for the better.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov